Editor’s Note: Through personal stories and scriptural insights, Margaret Feinberg shares glimpses of God’s character — big-hearted, kind, beautiful, mysterious — that point to an authentic and naturally spiritual relationship with him, allowing you to truly discover God in a healthy, refreshing new way, and fall in love all over again.
One of the things that I appreciate most as I reflect on this nontraditional upbringing is that wherever we lived or traveled, my parents, and especially my dad, were always connecting with people. Whether he was on a ski slope or a dive boat, Dad was constantly listening, learning, and exchanging ideas and stories. While he sometimes dreaded going to social events, he was usually the one we had to drag away at the end of the night.
Once my dad made a personal connection with someone, he would do anything for them. When he owned a surf shop, he was constantly helping out single moms and those in need by giving them free clothes. When we lived on the boat, he would help those on the dock fix everything from their engine to their toilet. When we lived in western Colorado, he helped build fences and shovel manure on a friend’s ranch. He wasn’t above getting down in the dirt of people’s lives and making a difference.
In a word, my dad is big-hearted.
He simply loved to be with people. For my dad, the simplest request for help was an opportunity for relationship. It wasn’t about the act of service as much as it was an expression of love, care, and companionship.
I not only saw this in his relationships with others, I experienced it in my interactions with him. My father was always gracing me with more than I deserved or even asked for. One of the best portraits of this came when I needed to ask my father for money. I was always a bit shy about making the request, but I would eventually work up the courage to let my dad know my need. The conversation usually went something like this, “Dad, can I have some money for the movies this weekend?” To which my dad would always ask, “Well, how much do you need?”
For whatever reason, I would ask for a low amount. I don’t know if my dad ever knew that I would secretly hold back my true need, but it didn’t matter because he would always give me more than I asked for. It never failed. If I asked for ten dollars, he would give me twenty. If I asked for twenty, he would give me thirty or forty. My dad never gave me what I requested; he always gave me more.
In the process, he gave me something else: an incredibly graceful understanding of how our heavenly Father interacts with us. Just like my dad, God is very big-hearted. In every circumstance, He doesn’t just give us what we ask for, or even what we need. He gives us more, and in the process, invites us into a deeper relationship with Him. He gives us those things we can’t even identify or put into words. He lavishes us with His love and care. He doesn’t hold back from the grit and grime of our lives. He gives of himself. He interacts with us in ways we didn’t think possible. He speaks to us, He listens to us, He sings to us — He even dances over us. Indeed, our God is very bighearted.
Why reflect on God’s big-heartedness? Psalm 107:43 puts it succinctly:
Whoever is wise, let him heed these things and consider the great love of the Lord.
When we talk about a big-hearted God, we find a God whose love cannot be contained, coupled by desire for real relationship. It’s immeasurable. It’s so big that in Ephesians 3:17-19, Paul offers up this prayer:
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
The length, height, and depth express the incomprehensible size and the unimaginable recesses of God’s love. His love reaches beyond what we can fathom. He permeates creation with His glory. Some theologians even suggest that such a perfect cube — in length, height, and depth — is reflective of the Holy of Holies. No matter how you read these verses, a portrait of God’s bighearted love and his desire for relationship emerges.
Such divine words are not simply mantras to be memorized. They come alive in our interactions with God. In His big-heartedness, God is not above putting His love on display in our lives in intimate, personal ways, yet the greatest portraits of God’s love are not found in personal experiences but in His Son as revealed in Scripture.
In Jesus, the fullness of God’s big-heartedness is revealed. I don’t know what it is about Him, but something about Jesus steadies me. His words breathe life. His actions impart hope. His life inspires action. It’s not just His selflessness — that He would die for the redemption of others. The very act of coming to this world as one of us — the incarnational element of Christ — is so revealing, so compelling. Jesus gave up the comforts, pleasures, and beauty of heaven to be reduced to human form in a rundown stable in a less than popular area of town. He was literally born into the stench of this world, and He embraced those in it. He went after the untouchable, the unapproachable, and the questionable.
This incarnational element, the kind where Jesus becomes one of us, was wonderfully demonstrated in Motorcycle Diaries. The film follows Ernesto Guevara, played by Gael García Bernal, and Alberto Granado, played by Rodrigo de la Serna, on a 1950s motorcycle trip across South America. The movie focuses on the tragedies and triumphs of their journey, the people they encounter, and a rich mixture of ironies as well as injustices. A slow documentary, the film barely keeps you holding on for the next scene. I watched it after being in airports all day and found myself dozing in and out of sleep and various scenes, but one part of the movie gripped my heart.
Toward the end of the film, the motorcycle duo spent time offering medical help to a lepers’ colony. The nuns who cared for the lepers required that everyone wear gloves for fear of being infected. Sadly, the gloves represented the way those with leprosy are treated — professionally, and at a distance. Ernesto refuses the gloves. With his bare hands, he touches those with leprosy. He talks to them as people. He laughs. He embraces. In the process, he comes fully alive and spreads that contagious life to everyone he meets. The film is one of the best portrayals I have ever seen of choosing to live incarnationally.
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Excerpted with permission from Organic God: Fall in Love with God All Over Again by Margaret Feinberg, copyright Zondervan.
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Have you ever thought of God (especially expressed in the incarnation of Jesus) as big-hearted? That He is lavish towards you? If not, why? Come join the conversation on our blog! We want to hear from you! ~ Faith.Full